Transcript: January 18, 2013

JEFF GREENFIELD: Welcome to Need to Know. Thanks for watching. Monday’s inauguration is sure to inspire high-minded rhetoric about cooperation and conciliation. But when the words fade, we’re almost surely in for weeks of angry, divisive fights over the debt and budget cuts–that threaten everything from government shutdown, to a default.

But it isn’t just Washington. For years, now, policy-making at every level has been victimized by everything from partisanship to the clash of interests to deep-seated bureaucratic gridlock. The question is: how do we get out of this mess?

Recently, we were approached by the non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group, Common Good, whose mission is to find answers to some of our nation’s most intractable problems. It proposed joining forces to explore these problems–and some possible solutions. It then helped secure funding for two episodes of “Need to Know” that will run this week and next. In return, we promised nothing more than what we promise you: to examine their ideas and to report on what we find.

So tonight we turn to an issue as important as its name is wonky: “infrastructure”–the roads, bridges, waterways as crucial to our economic health as our cardio-vascular system is to our physical health. It was once the envy of the world. Now, its sluggish pace threatens our future.

NEWSREEL: On May 29, 1935, two years after they had begun pouring, crews placed the last concrete in Hoover Dam. This modern civil engineering wonder stood completed two and ½ years ahead of schedule.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: IT WAS THE MOST AMBITIOUS PUBLIC WORKS PROJECT IN HUMAN HISTORY–BUILT IN THE DEPTHS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION–IT TAMED THE COLORADO RIVER, CREATED AN IMMENSE MAN-MADE LAKE, PROVIDED THE ELECTRIC POWER TO THE CALIFORNIA DEFENSE PLANTS THAT HELPED WIN WORLD WAR II.

HOOVER DAM IS ONE OF COUNTLESS EXAMPLES OF THE KIND OF PUBLIC WORKS THAT DEFINED AMERICA–FROM THE ERIE CANAL TO THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD, TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM, SUCH PROJECTS SYMBOLIZED THE NATION’S AMBITION AND ENTERPRISE.

ROBERT YARO: We used to be the most efficient place to move people and goods in the world. It gave us an enormous economic advantage. And that’s because our parents and great-grandparents built these great ports and airports and so forth.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: BUT THAT WAS THEN….

THIS IS NOW. ACROSS THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD IN PLACES LIKE CHINA AND GERMANY, HIGH-SPEED RAILROADS AND GLEAMING NEW AIRPORTS. AND HERE IN THE UNITED STATES? AN INFRASTRUCTURE SO OUTDATED THAT IT WILL TAKE SOME $2.2 TRILLION DOLLARS TO FIX IT, ACCORDING TO THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS. THERE ARE MANY REASONS BEHIND THIS GRIM PICTURE. BUT ONE REASON, SOME EXPERTS TELL US, IS HOW LONG IT TAKES TO APPROVE SUCH PROJECTS.

JEFF GREENFIELD: If you want to understand what’s happening or what is not happening to infrastructure in America, take a look at the Bayonne Bridge, an 81 year old, mile long structure that connects New Jersey to Staten Island and forms a critical part of the region’s transportation grid. It has also become a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences.

Because of the bridge’s height–or lack of it–the newer generation of bigger ships that will soon pass through the expanded Panama Canal will be unable to pass under the bridge to reach the Ports of Newark and Elizabeth in New Jersey and Howland Hook on Staten Island. Unless it’s fixed, that will cost the region uncounted billions of dollars in lost economic activity.

PHILLIP HOWARD: The Port Authority figured out that they could actually raise the roadway of the bridge without building a new bridge or tunnel which saves billions of dollars. And it’s also minimizes any environmental impact. They use the same foundations, the same right of way. So– so here you have a project with virtually no environmental impact. They figure this out in 2009. And now it’s 2013 and they still don’t have approvals.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: PHILIP HOWARD IS A NEW YORK LAWYER AND FOUNDER OF AN ORGANIZATION CALLED “COMMON GOOD”, IT FOCUSES ON WHAT HE CONSIDERS IMPEDIMENTS TO COMMON SENSE SOLUTIONS TO SOME OF AMERICA’S INTRACTABLE PROBLEMS. HOWARD’S ARGUMENT IS THAT A WELL-INTENTIONED EFFORT TO CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS HAS BECOME SO DRAWN OUT THAT IT HAS ALL BUT STOPPED THESE VITAL IMPROVEMENTS.

PHILLIP HOWARD: There were abuses in the past. And so in 1970 they passed the National Environmental Policy Act which was– a good thing to make sure that the facts were on the record of the environmental consequences of a project. And the decision makers could look at all the facts. And the public could look at the facts too to hold the decision makers accountable. Unfortunately the review process has taken a life of its own.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: WHY? BECAUSE, HOWARD AND OTHERS CLAIM, THERE ARE SO MANY STEPS IN THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS, SO MANY POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS TO CONSIDER, HOWEVER REMOTE SOME OF THEM MIGHT BE, THAT THE PROCESS CAN DRAG ON ALMOST INDEFINITELY.

ROBERT YARO: We just made it really hard to build things. We’ve created a series of regulatory administrative impediments that just makes it hard to build things.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: ROBERT YARO IS PRESIDENT OF THE REGIONAL PLAN ASSOCIATION – A RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY GROUP THAT STUDIES OUR NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE – YARO SAYS ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IS A CRITICALLY IMPORTANT GOAL. BUT, HE ADDS:

ROBERT YARO: It takes– it takes years and years longer than it should, adds billions of dollars to the cost of big projects and I think it’s one of the reasons why the public has lost confidence because they just don’t believe things will get built.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: IN FACT, THE DELAY IN WORK ON THE BAYONNE BRIDGE IS SHORT IN COMPARISON TO OTHER PROJECTS. THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW FOR A PLANNED WIND FARM OFF CAPE COD HAS TAKEN OVER 10 YEARS. AS FOR THE RUBY NATURAL GAS PIPELINE THAT NOW SPANS FROM WYOMING TO OREGON… IT WAS 680 MILLION DOLLARS OVER BUDGET IN PART DUE TO THE REVIEW PROCESS. AND OUT IN ORANGE COUNTY CALIFORNIA, THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE LAST 16 MILES OF A TOLL ROAD HAS BEEN DELAYED FOR A STAGGERING 15 YEARS BECAUSE OF A RAFT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS THAT EVEN INCLUDED WHETHER OR NOT A POPULAR SURF SPOT MIGHT BE IMPACTED.

BUT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS OVER THE PLAN TO RAISE THAT ROADWAY OF THE BAYONNE BRIDGE REALLY THAT INSIGNIFICANT?

JEFF GREENFIELD: It’s about ten miles from the Bayonne Bridge to the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey and at first glance the connection between the two locations may not be clear. But in fact, the concern of some residents in this working class neighborhood helps explain why the Bayonne Bridge project is taking so long.

JEFF GREENFIELD: The Bayonne Bridge is ten miles away. How does that have an impact here?

ANA BAPTISTA: It may not seem obvious at first. But Port Newark and Elizabeth is right in our backyard. And so, they’re our neighbors. And when we hear increased cargo volume– it translates for us in the community into lots more dirty diesel trucks. And that’s a huge concern for us because air pollution translates into public health problems. You know, one in four children in our neighborhood has asthma and suffers from asthma in a debilitating way

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: ANA BAPTISTA IS A RESIDENT OF THE IRONBOUND SECTION OF NEWARK AND THE DIRECTOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY FOR THE IRONBOUND COMMUNITY CORPORATION, A SOCIAL SERVICE PROVIDER.

BAPTISTA TOOK US ON A TOUR TO SHOW US EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE DEALING WITH.

ANA BAPTISTA: We can count upwards of two to three hundred trucks in just one hour going by.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: FOR BAPTISTA AND HER COLLEAGUES, THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS IS ONE OF THE FEW FORUMS THEY HAVE TO RAISE THEIR CONCERNS.

ANA BAPTISTA: From our perspective– we believe that the process is there for a reason. So that we can fully account for the long term impacts that these projects will have.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: ONE OF THE CHIEF COMPLAINTS OF THE PROJECTS CRITICS IS THAT THEY ARE CUT OUT OF THE PROCESS–THAT AUTHORITIES PLAN WITHOUT THE PARTICIPATION OF THE COMMUNITY. THAT COMPLAINT WAS HEARD FREQUENTLY AT A RECENT MEETING OF NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENTS.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN FEMALE: And so the reality is, we need to be at the table, but we also need adequate time. Because then– then you will have meaningful participation from the community residents.

ANA BATISTA: We’re not, like, asking them to save, like, some little tiny piece of wetland or a couple of birds here. We’re, like, asking them to look at real public health information and real people’s lives.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: AND IF THESE COMMUNITY MEMBERS ARE, IN THEIR WORDS, IGNORED AND THEIR CONCERNS NOT ADDRESSED? THEN THEY’LL HAVE TO TAKE MORE DRASTIC ACTIONS.

MEETING MEMBER: Our next step after that would be to file a– file an appeal in the federal courts.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN FEMALE: Then– then we would have to sue them.

PHILLIP HOWARD: Any local group, any self-appointed person can get involved in the process, threaten to sue, demand more review. And so everyone, hordes of bureaucrats and consultants sort of crawl through the years looking over their shoulders trying to please everyone.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: PHILLIP HOWARD SAYS THAT THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW FOR THE BAYONNE BRIDGE, WHICH RUNS OVER 5000 PAGES LONG, INCLUDES SOME QUESTIONABLE ELEMENTS. IT INCLUDES FOR INSTANCE STUDYING WHETHER HISTORIC BUILDINGS IN A 2 MILE RADIUS OF THE BRIDGE MIGHT BE AFFECTED, AS WELL AS NOTIFYING ANY NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES THAT MIGHT HAVE ANY CONNECTION TO THE LAND AT ALL.

PHILLIP HOWARD: So all of these requirements, 47 different permits from 19 different government entities, can’t be avoided because the law requires you to go through these studies and requirements even if they have no possible impact.

JEFF GREENFIELD: Is it really madness for a local group like in the Ironbound section of Newark to say, “You know what, you do this and– and just fleets more trucks’ll be coming through our– our neighborhoods causing environmental impact?”

PHILLIP HOWARD: The point of environmental review was not to please every single constituency. The point was to put all the facts on the record so a democratically-accountable official could make a decision about what was best in the public interest balancing all needs, environmental needs as well as economic development needs and others. Today that person doesn’t exist.

JEFF GREENFIELD: What struck me about this point you’re making is we used to have this person in New York. His name was Robert Moses. And for decades his word was god. He was more powerful than mayors, governors, some say even the president. The consequence of all that power Robert Moses had was not an unalloyed good.

ROBERT YARO: There’s a middle ground between dictatorship like Robert Moses and paralysis which is where we are today.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: FOR ROBERT YARO OF THE REGIONAL PLAN ASSOCIATION, THE KEY TO BREAKING THIS PARALYSIS IS NOT TO EXCLUDE GROUPS LIKE ANA BAPTISTA’S, BUT TO BRING THEM IN EARLIER— HE ALSO WANTS TO SEE THE WHOLE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS FAST TRACKED BY HAVING DIFFERENT AGENCIES WORK IN TANDEM INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR EACH AGENCY TO DELIBERATE IN TURN. THAT’S SOMETHING THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAS SOUGHT TO ENCOURAGE.

YARO SAYS THESE CHANGES ARE CRTITICAL, WHAT’S AT STAKE HE SAYS, IS NOTHING LESS THAN THE ECONOMIC FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES.

ROBERT YARO: We just can’t sustain our economy or our standard of living unless we make these investments. That’s the issue. And it’s not that we have to throw out, you know, the– the environmental review process or– or ignore– the– the very real– impacts that these projects have. We just have to go at that in a much more efficient way.

JEFF GREENFIELD: If it takes years to even get started on rebuilding a bridge in the United States, what would it take to transform the whole country’s electric grid–to shut down its old power plants, and move to a system that generates electricity almost exclusively from renewable resources? Well, that is exactly what Germany is trying to do–not decades from now….but now. It’s a real-life tale of conservatives and liberals coming together…consumers agreeing to pay higher prices…and the private sector leading the way. It might sound like a fairy tale to Americans–but, as correspondent Rick Karr reports, it’s transforming the biggest economy in Europe.

RICK KARR [narration]: IF YOU WANT TO SEE THE FUTURE THAT THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT HAS IN MIND, PAY A VISIT TO THE VILLAGE OF FELDHEIM, ABOUT FORTY MILES SOUTHWEST OF BERLIN. YOU’LL FIND A FEW DOZEN TIDY FARMHOUSES, AND ABOUT A HUNDRED FIFTY RESIDENTS … SURROUNDED BY FORTY-THREE WIND TURBINES … AND BANKS OF SOLAR CELLS. IT WAS ALL BUILT BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR, AND IT CAN GENERATE ENOUGH POWER FOR FELDHEIM … AND UP TO TWENTY THOUSAND OTHER GERMANS. SIEGFRIED KAPPERT IS A FELDHEIM NATIVE WHO LOVES TO SHOW VISITORS JUST HOW FAR THE VILLAGE HAS COME SINCE IT WAS PART OF COMMUNIST EAST GERMANY. FELDHEIM ATTRACTS ABOUT THREE THOUSAND VISITORS A YEAR, FROM AROUND GERMANY … AND FROM AROUND THE WORLD. KAPPERT SAYS … HE AND HIS NEIGHBORS IN THIS FAIRLY TRADITIONAL AGRICULTURAL VILLAGE … HAVE BECOME EVANGELISTS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY.

SIEGFRIED KAPPERT: This is really a project we welcome. We hope in the future this project will have become the starting point for the whole world.

RICK KARR [narration]: BUT, KAPPERT SAYS, THIS IS NO LEFT-WING, RADICAL-ENVIRONMENTALIST PROJECT. HE DOESN’T EVEN THINK OF HIMSELF AS A GREEN.

SIEGFRIED KAPPERT: No! I’m not! I’m no Green! I’m not in any party.

RICK KARR [narration]: MORE THAN TWO THIRDS OF GERMANS, REGARDLESS OF PARTY THEIR AFFILIATION, SUPPORT THE GOAL OF USING RENEWABLE RESOURCES TO GENERATE NEARLY ALL THE POWER ON THE COUNTRY’S GRID. GERMANY’S MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES SUPPORT THE GOAL, TOO — AND THERE ISN’T A SINGLE MAINSTREAM POLITICAL LEADER IN THE COUNTRY WHO DENIES CLIMATE CHANGE. THIS REVOLUTION IN GERMANY’S ENERGY ECONOMY IS CALLED THE “ENERGIEWENDE”. THE SECOND HALF OF THE TERM — “WENDE” — MEANS “TURN” — AND IT’S THE WORD GERMANS USE FOR THE PEACEFUL REVOLUTION OF NINETEEN EIGHTY NINE THAT TOPPLED THE BERLIN WALL AND REUNITED THE COUNTRY. WHEN THE GOVERNMENT IN BERLIN STARTED ITS ENERGY REVOLUTION IN TWO THOUSAND, GERMANY WAS GENERATING LESS OF ITS ELECTRICITY FROM RENEWABLES THAN THE U.S. BY LAST YEAR, GERMANY GENERATED TWICE THE SHARE OF THE U.S. — A QUARTER OF ALL OF ITS ELECTRICITY. AND BY TWENTY-FORTY, IT’S PROJECTED TO BE GENERATING FOUR TIMES AS MUCH AS THE U.S. — TO MOVE STREETCARS, LIGHT UP STORES, AND POWER SMALL BUSINESSES. GERMANY’S ALREADY SHUTTING DOWN ITS TRADITIONAL POWER PLANTS … AND WEANING ITSELF FROM IMPORTED FUELS.

KATHARINA REICHE: To have less dependence of imports of oil and gas is a wise solution. That’s why we have to invest right now.

RICK KARR: And of course, Germany has no oil or gas of its own. So, you’re entirely dependent.

KATHARINA REICHE: We entirely dependent in oil. We have a dependency of 98 percent.

RICK KARR [narration]: KATHARINE REICHE IS A CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT WHO’S IN THE LEADERSHIP OF THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY. HER OPPOSITION TO GAY MARRIAGE PUTS HER IN LINE WITH THE GOP HERE IN THE U.S. BUT SHE THINKS PRESERVING THE ENVIRONMENT ALSO REFLECTS HER CONSERVATIVE, CHRISTIAN VALUES.

KATHARINA REICHE: I have three kids. And as mother, you’re taking care and you think. What happens to my children when I’m not on earth anymore? And what did I left them?” I feel really responsibility not to destroy our earth, but to do and put all my political efforts in preserving it for my kids and for the kids of my kids.

RICK KARR: How has this happened so fast in Germany? It takes us- In the United States, it seems to take us years to make a big change.

KATHARINA REICHE: I think the green movement, um- created something what gets very deep in the German soul. This green movement is- isn’t just due to one party anymore.

RICK KARR [narration]: BUT REICHE’S PARTY — THE CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION, LED BY CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL — FELT DIFFERENTLY WHEN THE BILL CAME UP FOR A VOTE IN TWO THOUSAND.

RICK KARR: How fierce was the opposition from the conservative parties at that time? Were they strongly opposed to this?

RAINER BAAKE: Very strongly.

RICK KARR [narration]: RAINER BAAKE WAS THE GREEN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT WHO WROTE THE ORIGINAL BILL. TODAY, HE RUNS A NONPROFIT THAT PROMOTES RENEWABLE ENERGY IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. HE SAYS … GERMANY FINALLY FOUND THE CONSENSUS THAT’S ELUDED U.S. POLITICIANS … WHEN ONE OF THE CONSERVATIVES’ MAIN CONSTITUENCIES STARTED BUILDING RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEMS OF THEIR OWN … ACTUALLY POWERED BY FARM WASTE.

RAINER BAAKE: The farmers told their representatives that they really think this is a fantastic idea. Please support it. And that’s actually the reason why the Christian Democratic Party changed their position in 2005.

RICK KARR [narration]: ECONOMISTS SAY … ANOTHER REASON WHY THE ENERGIEWENDE HAS MADE SUCH A BIG IMPACT SO QUICKLY … IS BECAUSE IT IS NOT A BIG GOVERNMENT INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT. INSTEAD, IT’S GOVERNMENT ENCOURAGING THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE.

RAINER BAAKE: We wanted to give incentives for investments. So, private citizens and farmers invested. And this over the last 12 years has led to a structure that is totally unique. About 50 percent of the installed capacity in renewables is in the hands of normal citizens and farmers. I don’t know any other country in the world that has such a high share in private investments in the energy sector.

RICK KARR [narration]: SO THE WIND TURBINES AND SOLAR INSTALLATIONS THAT ALREADY DOT THE GERMAN COUNTRYSIDE WERE PAID FOR BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR. THIS NONPROFIT CULTURAL CENTER IN BERLIN, FOR EXAMPLE — WITH A KINDERGARDEN, A CAFE, AN ORGANIC BAKERY, THEATERS AND ARTS CLASSROOMS — SPENT HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS ON RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGY … WHICH IS PAYING FOR ITSELF.

RICK KARR: It’s a little hard to tell with all the snow that’s falling here in Berlin, but the rooftops here are covered with photovoltaic cells — not just on this building but on a lot of the other buildings in the complex. Every kilowatt hour they generate with these things gets sold to the local utility company for 50 cents. They then buy it back from the local utility at 18 cents. The profit they make goes to pay off the investment they made in all of these photovoltaic cells.

RICK KARR [narration]: WHEN THOSE PANELS ARE COVERED IN SNOW, THE CENTER GETS JUICE FROM A COUPLE OF WIND TURBINES … AND A NATURAL-GAS GENERATOR — AND SELLS THAT POWER TO THE LOCAL UTILITY AT A PROFIT. THAT ARRANGEMENT IS AT THE HEART OF THE FEDERAL LEGISLATION THAT PASSED IN TWO THOUSAND. THE SAME LAW IMPOSED A SURCHARGE ON EVERY GERMAN ELECTRIC BILL — FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES — TO PAY FOR THOSE SUBSIDIES ON RENEWABLE ENERGY. THAT SHARED SACRIFICE IS ONE OF THE LEAST POPULAR ASPECTS OF THE ENERGIEWENDE — ESPECIALLY WHEN THE SURCHARGE SHOT UP AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR. THE OVERALL COST OF ELECTRICITY HAS INCREASED BY ABOUT TWO THIRDS SINCE THE LAW WENT INTO EFFECT.

RICK KARR: How far can you go before the average German says, “This is too expensive.”

KATHERINA REICHE: Even if you ask them, “That will cost more. Would you accept higher cost?” They would say, yes.

RICK KARR [narration]: THERE ARE OTHER PROBLEMS: GERMANY’S BURNING MORE COAL TO MEET POWER DEMAND ON CLOUDY AND WINDLESS DAYS — ESPECIALLY THE DIRTY, SOFT COAL CALLED LIGNITE THAT’S EXTRACTED FROM HUGE, OPEN STRIP MINES. THEN THERE ARE TECHNICAL CHALLENGES THAT ARISE AS GERMANY WINDS DOWN ITS OLD POWER PLANTS.

RAINER BAAKE: We have to organize our whole system around wind and solar. And that is actually the biggest challenge. We are going to have times when we have a lot of electricity from these sources, uh- and other times when we have little.

RICK KARR [narration]: THAT’S GOING TO REQUIRE A “SMART GRID” — WHICH COULD COST UPWARDS OF TWENTY FIVE BILLION DOLLARS. BUT EVEN THAT COULD TURN OUT TO BE AN OPPORTUNITY — TO BOOST GERMAN BUSINESSES IN THE RENEWABLE-ENERGY SECTOR, ACCORDING TO FORMER GREEN PARTY POLITICIAN RAINER BAAKE.

RAINER BAAKE: Germany is not organizing this Energiewende to harm its economy. Quite the opposite. We see the advantages. We have, uh- a lot of people in the industry who realize that this is a fantastic opportunity to be the first mover and sell technologies not only in Germany, but also in other countries.

RICK KARR [narration]: THAT’S ALREADY HAPPENING IN THE ENERGY-INDEPENDENT VILLAGE OF FELDHEIM: SIEGFRIED KAPPERT’S DAUGHTER WORKS AT A NEW FACTORY THAT ASSEMBLES SOLAR-CELL ARRAYS IN THE VILLAGE. HE SAYS … THAT KIND OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS WHAT FELDHEIM NEEDS.

KAPPERT: We’re an example in Germany and all over Europe that small communities can do this.

RICK KARR: Do you have any advice for the United States?

RAINER BAAKE: Sooner or later, this transition to renewable energies has to come. So, it’s the question – do you want to be one of the first movers, uh- you want to belong to that group of countries that is producing with the energy sources of the future? Or do you want to prevail the old fossil system for a few more decades? That is actually the crucial question. And every country, of course, has to give its own answer. I’m very glad that my country decided to be among the first movers.

JEFF GREENFIELD [narration]: THIS WEEK ONLINE…TAKE PART IN OUR WEEKLY POLL. THE TOPIC: FIXING AMERICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE. ALSO, A LOOK BACK AT POWER BROKER ROBERT MOSES. VISIT PBS.ORG/NEED TO KNOW.

JEFF GREENFIELD: Germany and the United States have very different stories to tell about rebuilding; but there is a common lesson from both: it’s about the real costs of a process where the parties see each other as adversaries–and where distrust leads to delay. Such attitudes are understandable; for decades, our infrastructure was built with little if any regard to the concerns of affected neighborhoods, or to the impact on our air and water. But if distrust and hostility can be replaced by inclusion, and by genuine consultation, then it really is possible–as Germany is showing–for a very different process–one in which authorities actually listen, and in which advocates recognize that the search for the “perfect” can indeed be the enemy of the “good.” That’s it for this edition of Need to Know. On our next edition… should malpractice lawsuit awards be limited to keep down the cost of healthcare in America?

DOCTOR: I’ve asked a lot of my colleagues about this– 20-30% of their costs have to do with defensive medicine.

JEFF GREENFIELD: I’m Jeff Greenfield, we’ll see you next week.

 

 
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